DIRECTED BY: Mark Region
FEATURING: Jason Kulas, Peggy McClellan
PLOT: Although it’s fairly incoherent, the core of the story involves two medical students working on a project and a serial killer who is stalking the area; telepathy and ghosts also play significant roles, and clunky “special effects” are added courtesy of primitive CAD software.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: “Huh?,” “um…,” and “whah?” are all equally valid responses to After Last Season. This movie may go down as this generation’s Beast of Yucca Flats: stultifyingly dull at times, but so full of misguided directorial choices and failed attempts at cinematic poetry that it takes on a dreamlike character. Watching After Last Season is like trying to follow a old timey radio monologue on an AM radio station with fading reception: you can tell there’s a voice trying to make itself heard, but the transmission is so garbled that the basics of the story become lost in static and long stretches of dead air. It’s difficult watching, for sure—thus the “beware” rating—but for intrepid curiosity seekers looking to experience the worst of the worst, it’s a must see. It has potential to become a The Room-like cult item. Time will tell if After Last Season gains enough of a following that its devotees storm 366 Industries World Headquarters and take the staff hostage, demanding this anti-masterpiece take its rightful place on the List.
COMMENTS: There’s a concept in cinema theory called “film grammar;” it refers to sets of filmmaking conventions that have been proven over time to work to tell a story to an audience in a coherent fashion. A director breaks these “grammatical rules” at the risk of confusing and losing his audience. Here’s a very simple example of a “grammatical” movie “sentence”: a two way conversation starts with a shot of the character who’s speaking, cuts to a reaction shot of the party who’s listening, then cuts back to allow the speaker to finish his thought. In After Last Season director Mark Region consistently exhibits atrocious film grammar: he will have his speaker deliver a line and then pause awkwardly, then cut to a shot of the listener reacting to a few moments of silence, then cut back to the speaker, who resumes his thought. This isn’t a common sort of gaffe; it’s more the equivalent of consistently putting adjectives after nouns. Another norm that should be self-evident that Region likes to break is “don’t focus on long, undramatic shots of furniture during transitions.” He’s not just content to mangle the small-scale standards, either; he breaks the big storytelling rules too, rules like “don’t include a scene of your main character discussing which floor has a working printers unless the discussion has some relationship to the plot,” “don’t have any scenes of completely unnecessary characters discussing genealogy while giggling inappropriately,” and “don’t make one third of your movie a dream sequence unless you have a reason to.” New characters, or shots of exteriors (or furniture), are introduced without any context and edited randomly into ongoing conversations. The results are so incoherent and disorienting that it takes two viewings just to verify that there is not a real story hiding somewhere in this mess.
Adding to the oddness, almost the entire film seems to have been shot in one large, vacant house: a medical examining room appears to be someone’s bedroom, with pink walls, a ceiling fan, and an MRI machine made out of cardboard boxes taped up with sagging contact paper. (The plot doesn’t require an MRI machine, in case you were wondering, but the movie pays it a lot of attention nonetheless). Region is also fond of taping pieces of paper to walls; usually, they tell you what set your viewing, such as “Prorolis Corporation,” “Psychology Exercise,” or “Cell 1″; but sometimes he inexplicably tapes blank sheets to the exteriors of buildings. You feel almost saddened for the actors, who aren’t very good or charismatic but obviously received no help from the script or the director; it’s painful to watch them just standing around, not knowing what to do or how to react as they’re being assaulted by invisible forces throwing chairs or stabbing them with unseen knives. There’s almost no soundtrack, but at times little bursts of a piano or organ playing an odd, semi-melodic series of notes breaks into the action.
This mix of a thin paraspychological plot that’s approximately 50% padding, incoherent storytelling and incompetent production might have produced a bizarre enough concoction, but the weird little cherry on top is the “telepathic” scenes brought to us courtesy of outdated software that was probably originally intended as an aid in architectural design. (The credits tell us it took ten people to put together these sequences, but you would never be able to tell from the what appears onscreen). The resulting visions are blocky, geometric abstract designs. Sometimes they resolve themselves into recognizable objects like automobiles, and in one case into fish in an undersea coral reef made of floating cubes and conic sections. One ambitious animated scene recreates a murder, with a faceless killer wielding a conical knife against a slow-moving, cartoonified woman. Mostly, however, we watch abstract shapes floating around in space at different vectors, sometimes colliding and bouncing off each other. These scenes are long and essentially add nothing to the story, but they contain some nice weird and moody sound effects; focus real hard, and you might be able to achieve an altered state of consciousness off them.
After Last Season made a minor stir on the Internet in 2009 when its nonsensical (but, as it turns out, completely representative) trailer was released on YouTube and other video sites. The piece was so thoroughly anti-cinematic, with its laughable props and the meaningless minutiae of its dialogue, that many people assumed it was a parody by an established director. The frenzy reached it’s peak when Entertainment Weekly published an article repeating rumors that the trailer was a hoax by notorious prankster Spike Jonze intended (somehow) to draw attention to his upcoming film Where the Wild Things Are. Such rumors still persist among commenters on the IMDB, although now that the complete movie is available, there’s no reason to believe that it’s an experiment in deliberate badness by an established director (if it is, then it’s a failed experiment in entertainment, falling far short of the artistry of a Ted Hood, Jr.) None of this will stop me from launching another wildly speculative rumor: Mark Region is indeed a pseudonym, but not for an established director. Region is actually James Nguyen of Birdemic infamy. Evidence? In the Entertainment Weekly article Season star Jason Kulas is quoted as saying that Region is of “Asian descent.” Of course, given the lengths that Kulas is going to promote the movie on his Facebook page, he could be just trying deflect attention from the fact that Kulas is Region. Feel free to spread either irresponsible rumor around the Net.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
(This movie was nominated for review by reader “Deacon Lowdown,” who said “the trailer is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen.” [The suggestion was seconded by “LRobbHubbard.”] Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)